10-minute read.

When I think back to the start of it all, my wedding budget breakdown wasn’t even a thought. Like most brides, I was focused on the magic of the proposal when I think about how my journey as a wife started.

I can flashback to being on the promenade next to Lake Zurich in Zurich, Switzerland, heart pounding and shaking my head yes before the word “yes” could form in my mouth. I tagged along to my husband’s business trip and affirmed my commitment to marry my sweetheart. When we returned from our trip to Switzerland, we returned to the reality of a wedding (and how much a wedding costs).

wedding budget breakdown

Mere hours post-proposal. Sending a What’s App pic from Switzerland to our families back home!

To be honest, weddings are stressful to plan. Mainly because I had no clue what a wedding budget breakdown looked like. I also had no clue how much to budget for and how much help I would be receiving from family, if any.

As wedding season approaches, I wanted to give a realistic view of a typical wedding. My wedding budget breakdown is included below so that current and future millennial couples alike know the reality of how much a wedding costs, and how to make it affordable for your own dream day.

Full disclosure: I don’t claim to be a frugal bride. I’m just an average millennial gal who wanted a great wedding and a great party. You can certainly create a wedding for less than what I spent. If you don’t like reading long posts, skip down to the tl;dr section.

Apparel

First off, let’s talk about the wedding gown. Every millennial girl fantasizes about their own “Say Yes To The Dress” moment. I waltzed right into that dress shop determined to only spend $500. And I waltzed right back out spending $800, plus $323 in alterations. Oy vey.

Wedding Budget Breakdown: Apparel
Apparel Actual Cost
Wedding dress $879
Alterations $323
Bridal shoes $108
Bridesmaids headpieces $83
Groom’s suit $275
Groom’s vest $40
Groom’s shoes $100
Groomsmen’s socks $112
Groomsmen’s bowties $261
Cufflinks $18
Total $2,199
wedding apparel budget breakdown

Notice sweet Pun’kin in the corner. She seems unimpressed with my dress selection. I look a little frightened. *cough way over my budget cough*

In total, we spent $2,199 on wedding apparel alone. You see, when you are treated like royalty at these wedding apparel stores, it’s easy to overspend. They offer beverages, they wait on you hand and foot, they see you naked in the dressing room. It gets intimate. It’s hard not to spend money when you experience this level of customer service.

The dress shop I ended up purchasing from even had a sleepy French bulldog named Pun’kin that you could pet to sweeten the deal. Not Pumpkin, Pun’kin. Take all of my money, please!

We also paid for some of our wedding party’s accessories. For our 1920s themed wedding, the bridesmaids had crystal headpieces, the groomsmen had bowties, and we had 14 people involved. You can avoid this cost by having a smaller wedding party and skip the accessories altogether.

Flowers

I absolutely love flowers, but damn, they’re expensive! Not to mention, they eventually die. I knew I wanted to keep this expense as low as possible but still have the flair of a beautiful bouquet. A bouquet of flowers that a bride make. Right?

Wedding Budget Breakdown: Flowers
Flowers Actual Cost
Bride’s bouquet $90
Bridesmaids’ bouquet $150
Reception centerpieces $60
Florist deposit $25
Toss bouquet $15
Flower girl’s flowers $15
Total $355
wedding budget breakdown ceremony

Our pastor, Devin Wendt, making a clearly funny joke.

We opted out of getting corsages and boutonnieres because first of all, they were $15 a piece and second of all, the boys don’t really care about boutonnieres. We easily saved $100 because we didn’t order boutonnieres.

Ceremony

Meanwhile, aside from the actual venue expense, we also paid for an officiant–our wonderful pastor–and his hotel room. Not required, but we got married in my hometown and thought it appropriate to pay for the hotel room since we lived out of town.

Wedding Budget Breakdown: Ceremony
Ceremony Actual Cost
Church fee $1,500
Officiant $300
Pastor’s hotel room $119
Total $1,919

An easy way to cut costs on this would be to host the ceremony outdoors at a park or create a small ceremony outside of a courthouse. Our friends held an intimate ceremony outside of a courthouse with about 20 guests and only spent $25 in the ceremony. Yes, you read right. $25.

Reception

Hands down, this was our biggest expense. Before we really started to organize our wedding, my husband and I sat down and asked each other, “What are the top three most important things we want at our wedding?” The answer? Food, booze, and a band. These were the three things I envisioned my wedding budget breakdown would include. Consequently, it’s exactly what cost us the most!

“The answer? Food, booze, and a band.”

Wedding Budget Breakdown: Reception
Reception Actual Cost
Location fee $2,280
Off-duty security $210
Night Rhythm’s band $2,600
Caterer–Oklahoma Joe’s $3,549
Wedding cake $175
Alcohol $1,143
Table linens $250
Party bus $1,010
Miscellaneous: mixers, cigars, snacks, etc. $435
Plastic dining ware $176
Total $11,828

I know what you’re thinking. “Damn, Daniel!” By and large, I have a rather large family and next thing you know, we were inviting everyone and their second cousin. If memory serves me right, we had 180 guests attend, which significantly raises the cost of a reception.

wedding budget breakdown reception

Our band was the bee’s knees. Full horn section, keyboardist, guitarist, and killer vocals!

Surprisingly, we did cut corners on wedding reception expenses, despite it still being outrageously high. We hired our friend’s mom to make the wedding cake. Friends and family volunteered to make drinks for guests, because our venue did not require a licensed bartender. We used plastic dining ware. According to Here Comes The Guide, a wedding budget breakdown typically includes 18% in food and 18% in the reception venue. Ours accounted for half of our budget.

Start your marriage off right with a budget spreadsheet. No fancy, expensive apps. Just you and your boo telling your money where to go. 
It’s all in the Budget
Toolkit.

Photography

Next, we wanted to make sure we captured our special day, but a fancy photographer wasn’t part of our top three must-haves list. As a result, we ended up hiring two college students who are incredibly gifted in photography.

Wedding Budget Breakdown: Photography
Photography Actual Cost
Photographer #1 $560
Photographer #2 $440
Editing $20
Total $1,020
wedding budget breakdown photographer

I was extremely happy with the images that our photographers caught!

We were able to select our photos, have them professionally Photoshopped and keep the costs down! My sister even organized a Shutterfly book to preserve the memories. If photography is important, but you want to keep costs minimal, try hiring a college student.

Gifts/Decorations

When you DIY your wedding to save money, it’s hard to anticipate the cost of the decor and the time it takes to put it together. Especially the reception. We spent weekends at Hobby Lobby, hunting deals online or at thrift stores. Our theme was a roaring 20s wedding, and finding hundreds of white ostrich feathers proved to be challenging. Luckily, we had friends and family help put together the decor. The help is as equally important as the decor!

wedding budget breakdown decor

We spent many weekends hunting for the perfect 1920s decor.

Wedding Budget Breakdown: Gifts/Decorations
Gifts/Decorations Actual Cost
Reception decor $625
Parents’ gifts $450
Bridesmaids’ gifts $184
Flower girl/ring bearer gifts $43
Total $1,302

It’s important to realize from the table above, we spent a good chunk of money on gifts. We wanted to say thank you to our parents, the flower girl and ring bearer, and my cousins for hosting our rehearsal dinner. This isn’t mandatory, but when everyone is sacrificing so much for your big day, it makes sense to add this to your wedding budget breakdown.

And all the other shit

Finally, here’s a list of all the other expenses that goes into a wedding. When we were wedding planning, I quickly realized how expensive this industry can get. Hats off to you if you work in the wedding industry!

Wedding Budget Breakdown: All the other shit
Other Wedding Shit Actual Cost
Invitations $701
Groom’s wedding band $140
Marriage license $86
Hair stylist $385
Nail salon $69
Hotel $680
Honeymoon in Cancun $2,072
Total $4,133

My Wedding Budget Breakdown–tl;dr

To summarize, our wedding wasn’t out of the ordinary. It wasn’t over the top, but it wasn’t budget bride on steroids either.

 

Wedding Budget Breakdown Total
Everything and the Kitchen Sink Actual Cost
Apparel $2,199
Flowers $355
Ceremony $1,919
Reception $11,828
Photography $1,020
Gifts/Decoration $1,302
Other Wedding Shit $4,133
Total $22,756

In total, we spent $22,756 on our wedding. Fortunately, the stars aligned during the time we were wedding planning. I became debt free in April 2014 (more on that story here), engaged in July 2014, and married on March 28, 2015.

Perhaps it was my husband’s plan to wait until I was debt free, perhaps it was good financial juju. Either way, because I no longer had debt payments, we could both contribute financially toward our wedding. The wedding budget breakdown felt more like another loan payment to me i.e., temporary and expensive. The only difference is, I actually got something out of the payments–a damn good time!

Keep in mind, we paid for the entire thing in cash. A typical wedding costs $33,391 according to a 2017 study by The Knot. I’m not surprised ours was nearly $23k, and that’s not including the money our family put towards it.

If you are planning a wedding, please do these two things:

 

Create your wedding budget

Just like you would with a normal monthly budget, create a wedding budget that outlines all of your expenses. I used a free spreadsheet from Google that I ended up customizing and sharing via G-Drive with my husband. You’re welcome to use it by clicking the button below.

List your top three must-haves

Grab a glass of wine and ask your fiance:

  1. What are the top three must-haves at your wedding?
  2. What would get you really excited about your big day?
  3. Aside the fact that you’re getting married to the love of your life, what things would you definitely include in your wedding budget?

Agree on your top three so that when it comes to making financial decisions, you can focus on those must-haves first.

 

I wanna know…

How much do you want to spend on a wedding? If you’re already married, how much did your wedding cost? I’d love to know so we can help out other couples who are getting ready to walk down the aisle.

Learn How to Pay Off Debt By Putting A Budget In Place

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